Journalist fraternity in Kashmir today sought the Press Council of India’s intervention for lifting a “gag” imposed by authorities in Srinagar by snapping internet facilities, saying it was a “serious infringement” of freedom of expression and right to information. “An unprecedented situation has emerged since September 12, as the state decided to snap all internet services after suspending mobile telephony. This undeclared gag has left journalists completely grounded,” said a joint letter from four working journalist organisations in Kashmir.
The letter, by the Kashmir Journalist Corps, Press Photographers Association, Kashmir Correspondents’ Club and Kashmir Video Journalist Association, has been addressed to the PCI chairman Chandramauli Kumar Prasad. They said that never before has the media fraternity been confronted with such a grave situation “wherein we are not even able to communicate with other parts of the state”. Journalists also staged a protest at the Press Enclave here against the communication gag by authorities to snap internet services in Kashmir in view of the Eid-ul-Adha
festival and as part of efforts to curb the agitation in the valley, which has completed 10 weeks and has claimed 81 lives and left thousands injured.
“Visual journalists – photo journalists and videographers – were the worst hit, as they were unable to send pictures or videos,” they said. Journalists said the condition is so bad that some of them have been forced to dictate news reports over telephone and in worst case scenarios sent it as SMS, which in this day and age mocks technological advancement including Digital India. Terming the internet gag as serious infringement not only to freedom of expression but also to right to information, the journalists sought the intervention of the PCI chairman to restore services immediately.
“We seek your intervention as the custodian of press rights in India, to ensure restoration of internet facilities at the earliest. We are hopeful that your intervention will end the gag forced on the fourth estate in Jammu and Kashmir. The media fraternity in Kashmir is considering other options
of protest but we are hopeful PCI’s intervention will ensure that the situation will not come to that part,” the letter said.
They also demanded a permanent solution to such frequent gags. “The PCI may recommend measure to the state government/ Centre to ensure that any future internet gag does not affect working of reporters/ photo journalists/ media outlets,” the journalist said in the letter to the PCI chairman.